Assault and Battery

The crimes of assault and battery in the state of California are very serious crimes that can have a significant long-term impact on your future. Anyone facing assault and battery charges could be facing jail or prison time, massive fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record.

It is important to understand that assault and battery are two separate offenses. Penal Code 240 prohibits assault. It is defined as the threat or appeared intent of hurting another individual using physical violence. Battery, under Penal Code 242, is differentiated as the actual act of physical violence. Assault and battery are often charged simultaneously.

Assault and battery cases range from simple confrontations, such as bar fights, to domestic violence with spouses,  or even assault and battery with a deadly weapon. California Assault and Battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the specific facts of the given case:

  • Assault: Simple assault is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 240 and can be punishable by up to six months in county jail. Simple assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with present ability to commit a violent injury upon another person.
  • Assault on a peace officer or other persons engaged in performance of their duties: This crime is prosecuted under Penal Code section 241 and can be punishable by up to six months in county jail as a misdemeanor. This offense is an unlawful attempt coupled with the present ability to commit a violent injury upon a peace officer, firefighter, animal control officer, emergency medical technician, life guard, or code enforcement officer.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon: This crime is prosecuted under Penal Code section 245 as a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by up to one year in county jail or up to four years in state prison. Assault with a deadly weapon is the crime of assaulting another person with a firearm or a weapon (other than a firearm) of any kind by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (GBI). A felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon may be considered a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law. Use of a car as a deadly weapon could result in a lifetime revocation of your California Driver’s License.
  • Battery: Simple battery is the willful and unlawful use of force or violence against another person. Simple battery is a misdemeanor and prosecuted under Penal Code section 242 punishable by up to 180 days in county jail. Aggravated battery can also be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and prosecuted under Penal Code section 243(d). The punishment for aggravated battery is one to four years of imprisonment depending on whether it is a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Sexual Battery: Sexual battery is the unwanted touching of an intimate body part of another for sexual arousal, gratification or abuse, when the victim is unlawfully restrained, disabled, unconscious, or medically incapacitated. This crime can be a misdemeanor or felony and is prosecuted under Penal Code section 243.4 and is punishable by a year in county jail or up to four years in state prison. This crime comes with lifetime sex offender registration.
  • Battery on a police officer: Battery on a police officer is considered the intentional and unlawful touching, striking, or hitting of a police officer, firefighter, EMT, or Code Enforcement Officer. This offense is prosecuted under Penal Code section 243(b) and in punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Legal Defenses

  • Self-Defense: If a “reasonable person” in similar circumstances would feel threatened by an attack, that person may use all force reasonably necessary to prevent injury. An act of self-defense must ordinarily be proportional to the threat. For example, if you believe a person is going to spit on you, depending upon the context, it may be reasonable to push the person away, but it would not be reasonable to hit the person with a hammer.
  • Defense of Others: Defense of others is similar to self-defense and usually occurs in the context of a family member or friend protecting another. Some jurisdictions permit a defendant to assert defense of others, even where the defendant is mistaken as to the existence of a threat, as long as the mistake is reasonable. Other jurisdictions do not permit this defense unless there was an actual threat or battery against the other person.
  • Voluntary (Mutual) Combat: When an individual voluntarily engages in a fight with another person for the sake of fighting and not as a means of self-defense, there is no right to claim self-defense. If two people voluntarily enter a brawl, it is unlikely that either will be able to claim self-defense. However, if one falls and the other takes advantage of the situation by kicking him and causing injury, that act may well be considered to be unlawful use of force which would support criminal charges.
  • Defense of Property: Many jurisdictions allow the use of some amount of threat or force by a person who is seeking to protect his own property from theft or damage. In most jurisdictions, there is no privilege to use force that may cause death or serious injury against trespassers unless the trespass itself threatens death or serious injury. There are some jurisdictions with extraordinarily broad laws, permitting the use of significant and even deadly force to defend the safety of one’s home.
  • Consent: When a defendant has the other person’s consent to commit an act of assault or battery, the defendant may not be culpable. For example, consent exists in the context of authorized medical or surgical procedures. Another typical realm for consent occurs in sports. The intentional foul in basketball, the football tackle, and the hockey check are anticipated parts of the game. It is possible for some conduct to be so far outside of what is reasonable, it can give rise to criminal charges. For example, intentionally hitting a player in the head with a hockey stick, an action that could cause serious and perhaps crippling injury or death. But in most instances, rule violations are part of standard play and unlikely to support criminal charges.
  • Police Conduct: Police officers are permitted to apply the threat of or actual force, if necessary, to obtain a lawful arrest. An injury sustained as the result of reasonable force exerted by the police to affect a lawful arrest is not grounds for criminal charges. However, if excessive force is employed by the officer, this can provide a defense to charges of battery on an officer or resisting arrest (Penal Code Section 243(b), 243(c) or 148.)
  • Provocation: Words alone, no matter how insulting or provocative, do not justify an assault or battery against the person who utters the words. However, provocation may be a basis to mitigate a murder charge to voluntary manslaughter.

Depending on your criminal history, and any additional charges you may be facing, the penalties for an assault and/or battery conviction may include:

  • Varying terms of jail time or imprisonment
  • Hefty monitory fines
  • Lengthy terms of probation
  • Potential forfeiture of property and assets
  • Potential forfeiture of specific basic civil rights
  • Community service
  • In crimes involving injuries or property damage, legal standing for a civil suit